Getting ready to document a B2B content strategy? Good for you! According to the Content Marketing Institute, you’ll be among only about 40% of B2B businesses to have a documented content strategy.
But before you get started on that strategy, you must have a solid understanding of your target audience—and that’s where the customer interview is invaluable.
Interviewing customers before creating a B2B content strategy is important because it allows you to gain a better understanding of your target audience's needs, pain points, and preferences. You can then use this information to create content that is more relevant and valuable to your target audience—which can help increase engagement and conversions.
By understanding the customer's perspective, you can better align your messaging and positioning with the customer's goals and objectives. This can help build trust and credibility with the target audience, which can lead to increased sales and customer loyalty.
On the flip side, content that doesn’t resonate with your audience will flop, wasting your time, money, and trust.
So, how exactly do you conduct a B2B customer interview? What questions should you ask? And how should you use the output?
Here are some tips to get you started.
How to interview a B2B customer for content marketing
The overarching process to conducting customer interviews to inform your B2B content marketing strategy looks like this:
Identify your target audiences: Determine the specific group of customers that the content will be aimed at. This could be a specific job title, industry, or company size. You’ll want to interview people in these audiences.
Develop a list of interview questions: Create a list of questions that will provide insight into the target audience's pain points, challenges, and goals (more on that in a sec).
Conduct the interviews: Reach out to customers and schedule interviews. Conduct the interviews either in person, over the phone, or via video call (and don’t forget to record them).
Analyze the data: Review the interview transcripts and identify common themes and patterns that emerge.
Use the insights to inform content strategy: Use the insights gained from the customer interviews to inform your content marketing strategy. This includes identifying the topics that are most important to the target audience and the types of content that will be most effective in addressing their pain points and challenges.
Test and iterate: Use testing to see how the audience is responding to the content and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Okay, sounds good, Nicole, but how do I actually execute? Let’s take a dive into some of the nitty gritty.
B2B customer interview questions to inform content
What are the best customer interview questions to ask customers to inform your content strategy?
The goal is to understand who you’re talking to, what they’re trying to accomplish, what they’re struggling with, and how to reach them. With that in mind, some of my favorite customer interview questions come from Ryan Gibson at ContentLift:
Walk me through your responsibilities.
Describe a very successful workday.
Describe a challenging workday.
How do you measure success in your work?
How does your work impact the business?
What stops you from getting work done?
What happens to the business if you don’t get your priorities/goals accomplished?
Who are the people in your industry that you learn from or look to for ideas?
I'm also a big fan of this question from Diane Wiredu at Lion Words:
What was going on in your day that brought you to this product or service?
It places your interviewee back in that moment and prompts them to think about their struggle—and that’s super valuable for your content.
Running the actual interview
Interviewing a customer can feel a bit daunting if you’ve never done it before—buy you’ve got this. It can be painless (and even enjoyable!) for both parties if you make sure to:
Make it convenient for the participant: When scheduling the interview, be mindful of the participant's time and schedule. Try to schedule the interview at a time that is convenient for them and allow for flexibility in case they need to reschedule. Make sure to provide all the necessary information for the participant in advance, such as the interview location, length of the interview, and any materials that they need to bring.
Create a comfortable environment: The environment in which the interview takes place can greatly impact the quality of the responses you receive. If you’re doing the interview in person, make sure the room is quiet and free from distractions. Provide comfortable seating and refreshments to make the participant feel at ease. If you’re conducting the interview on the phone or online, make sure all of your equipment works ahead of time.
Build some rapport: Be sure to introduce yourself and make small talk before diving into the interview questions, as it will help to put the participant at ease and make them more comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions.
Listen actively: During the interview, it's important to actively listen to the participant's responses. Avoid interrupting them or finishing their sentences. Take notes and ask follow-up questions to clarify any points that are unclear. Remember that the goal of the interview is to gain insights and feedback, not to sell or pitch your products or services.
Show appreciation: After the interview, be sure to thank the participant for their time and valuable feedback. You can also offer them a small token of appreciation, such as a gift card or a discount on your products or services.
How to extract insights from the interviews
Phew, the interviews are done and you’ve got recordings…now what? Well, first, transcribe the interview scripts (consider a tool like rev.com or otter.ai). Then, to extract actionable info to inform your B2B content strategy, you can use a variety of techniques, including:
Identify common themes and pain points: Look for patterns in the responses you receive during customer interviews. What are customers consistently mentioning as challenges or frustrations?
Understand customer language: Pay attention to the words and phrases customers use to describe their challenges and goals. These can provide valuable insights into the language you should use in your content to effectively connect with your target audience.
Identify buying triggers: Ask customers about the factors that influence their purchasing decisions and use this information to create content that addresses their needs and concerns.
What do you DO with your new audience insights?
Once you have collected and analyzed the information from customer interviews, use it to create an actionable plan for your content—here's how:
Refine and document your ideal customers: Use the information you collected to create detailed buyer personas that will help guide your content creation and distribution efforts.
Prioritize content themes: Use the common themes and pain points identified during customer interviews to inform the topics you will cover in your content.
Develop a content calendar: Break those larger themes down into more specific content pieces and create a content calendar that outlines the topics, formats, and distribution channels you will use to reach your target audience.
Create and publish: Execute against your content calendar.
How to know if you’re getting it right
You're cranking along and publishing content...but is it working for you? There are a few ways to use testing to see how your B2B audience is responding to your content:
A/B testing: This involves creating two versions of a piece of content and testing them with a small sample of your audience to see which version performs better.
Surveys: Send a survey to your audience to gather feedback on your content and gauge their level of engagement.
Analytics: Track key metrics such as click-through rate, time on page, and bounce rate to understand how your audience is interacting with your content.
Heat mapping: Use heat mapping tools to track where users are clicking on your website, and use that information to optimize your content for engagement.
Social listening: Monitor social media for mentions of your brand and track engagement on your social media posts to see how your audience is responding to your content.
Based on the results of these tests, you can make adjustments to your content strategy, such as creating more of the types of content that perform well, and less of the types that don't. Is one content theme getting a ton of play, while others have fizzled? Double down where you see success.